There may be no more significant decision Baltimore County voters make in this election than their choices for the first-ever partially elected school board. The current body is completely dysfunctional, and the school system is in chaos over leadership turmoil, ethics violations and questions about the use of technology in the classroom. We need to start over and elect candidates with the experience in education, finance and management necessary to restore confidence in Baltimore County’s most crucial asset, its school system. The elections are non-partisan, so voters will get a chance to choose among all the candidates in their council districts, with the top two advancing to the general election. Here are our picks for the top candidate in each district:
1st District: Matt Gresick has 15 years of experience teaching in Maryland public schools, and he understands the difficulty in ensuring equity in a diverse system like Baltimore County’s. He has thoughtful views on classroom technology born of his actual experience in the classroom and good ideas for how to make school discipline more uniform, fair and productive. He also focuses on the need for more social workers and other support personnel, particularly in schools that serve large numbers of students growing up in poverty.
2nd District: Cheryl E. Pasteur is a retired teacher and principal who worked in Baltimore City and County. What makes her stand out, besides her experience, is her focus on staff development. Better attention to preparing teachers for the new Common Core-tied curriculum the system rolled out or its expansive technology initiative could have made both less controversial, more tailored to the county’s needs and more fruitful for students. She also has a strong sense of the need to engage parents and the entire community in students’ success.
3rd District: Paul Konka has a diverse resume — former Navy captain, accountant, contracting manager, management consultant, computer programmer and now teacher in Baltimore County schools. All of that gives him the skills and insights the board needs. He understands technology’s value and limitations in the classroom, the proper role of standardized testing and the need in the wake of the Dallas Dance scandal (and others) for the board to exercise sufficient oversight in system contracting and ethics.
4th District: Tara Huffman is a lawyer with a strong commitment to providing equity in opportunity for all children. She recognizes that Baltimore County’s fault was not in introducing technology into the classroom but in the execution, both from a curriculum and fiscal management standpoint. And she sees the ways that structural inequities infect the county’s schools and has good ideas for how to address them. She is particularly strong on the issue of school discipline and the need for uniformity in how behavior problems are handled from school to school and child to child.
5th District: Peter Beilenson was an innovator in his previous roles as Baltimore City and Howard County health commissioner and the leader of the Evergreen health co-op, and we believe he would bring the same spirit to the school board. He sees the ways the system’s ethics controversies and questionable contracting practices have diminished public trust and would be well suited to restore it. Mr. Beilenson would help bring both government oversight and management experience to the board and a holistic sense of what makes children thrive.
6th District: Edward Kitlowski retired after more than 30 years of teaching in Baltimore County schools, and that experience helps him understand how inconsistency in leadership has hobbled teachers and students. He has personal experience in how district budgeting has failed to serve all students equitably. He has seen how standardized testing has interfered with rather than augmented the educational experience. And he has personally struggled with the system’s poor integration of technology into the curriculum.
7th District: Eric C. Washington comes from the perspective of a parent and PTA activist whose profession also provides important insight. He is a student conduct administrator at the Community College of Baltimore County, which helps him understand both the best ways to maintain school discipline and safety and the integration (or lack thereof) between the county’s K-12 schools and its community colleges. He addresses the issues around equity in county schools and the need to properly allocate resources to serve the system’s growing population of English language learners and special education students.
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